No getting up and driving today. All the country participants were taken by coaches for a sight-seeing trip to the Royal Palace. The Autocar team passed up on the event to make sure that all the cars were washed and clean for the afternoon’s ceremonial flag off. As for me, I was excused from all the hard work to instead bring the blog, Facebook page and pictures up to date.
According to the trip meter, we have covered 2381.1km since the flag-off at Singapore. It was a 800km-plus drive from Phuket to the city of Bangkok. The 31-car convoy started rolling at 0630hrs from the hotel. The police, along with the Thai support team had us flying through the countryside.
We were now on the island of Phuket in Thailand. It was past eight in the morning by the time we started rolling out of the hotel in Hat Yai. The high point of the day was lunch. Not because of the food, but because the place we stopped at was called ‘Cabbages & Condoms’. It’s the result of a man’s effort to popularise condoms and stop the spread of HIV in this country. Obviously there was a bowl of condoms on the reception counter, yours for the taking, free.
Day two began with the cars being flagged off at 0845hrs. Half an hour later, we made a stop at the Murugan Temple to shoot the cars. I, personally, did not find anything special about the temple; it looks like any other temple you’d find in South India. But hey, what do I know?
The journey finally begins. The ASEAN Car Rally was flagged off today from Singapore’s F1 pit lane at 0930hrs. The flag-off had the usual team of important people making important speeches, including Adi Godrej. But it was clearly the children, apart from the participants, who seemed to be the most enthusiastic about 31 colourfully stickered XUVs travelling 8000km across eight countries, before returning to India via Manipur.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said “Indians love SUVs”. Irrespective of the segment or price tag, SUVs have commanded unparalleled attention and desirability. Think Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour, Mitsubishi Pajero, Mahindra XUV500, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Range Rover, Renault Duster, Maruti Gypsy or even the Premier Rio. While India’s fascination with the SUV is growing, it is safe to say that we are not alone.
Packed my bags on Tuesday for a week long outing. The schedule included two back to back shoots, a bike and two SUVs, then a track day with Honda for their Advanced Riding School and then finally off to Italy to drive a supercar. It was going to be quite a whirlwind week, but I wasn’t complaining. Despite all the action on the work front the deluge of pics documenting the brute force of Hurricane Sandy kept me glued to the web. You can bet that used car buyers will be trying to dodge flood damaged cars for a long time to come.
Apart from Spa and Monza, I haven’t wanted to attend any other Formula 1 race. In MotoGP, it’s Laguna Seca. For almost everything else, I’d much rather be sprawled at home, chai in hand and watch the action in detail, with the advantage of slow-motion and replay. The thousands of cameras around the circuit help you see and hear everything. It’s the best way to see everything and miss nothing. Or so I thought.
You're Narain Karthikeyan, the fastest Indian in the world. It's 1459hrs IST, Sunday, the 30th of October, seconds before the start of the first Indian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Sweat drips down through your balaclava onto your forehead as the heat from the Cosworth V8 racing engine sitting behind you radiates through the chassis. Your mind should be a jumble of thoughts and flashbacks, with a million possibilities coursing through. It really should. You are, after all, sitting in a lightweight single-seat racing machine that can send 760bhp to the rear wheels, just like that. And does it help that there are 24 similarly unhinged nuts in close proximity, revving the hell out their engines, eyes firmly fixed on the red lights ahead? You should be worried about getting the launch right, fretting about finding a gap in the pack at the start, or paying attention to dropping tyre temperatures. You should be cursing that your own HRT isn't much faster than a hopped-up bullock cart and frustrated by the totally unrealistic expectations of some of your less well-informed home crowd.
Back in the late ’90s, Maruti didn’t provide power-steering systems on their small hatchbacks. “They don’t really need them,” said a spokesperson. But Korean upstarts Hyundai and Daewoo knew better and gave the Santro and Matiz the power-steering advantage.
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Issue: 212 | Autocar India: April 2017
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